THE OLD poet stood silently upon the highest peak of the Jos plateau and sensed, for the first time in his long life, that it was time to finally put into words the yearnings, the stirrings and the recognitions that had ravaged his heart through the course of his life’s wanderings.
His eyes were raised to the sky, but he saw sky not, nor cloud, nor bird, nay, nor sun, for he was blind. As blind as blind can be. So who shall write down his poems on his behalf? – With a heavy heart he descended the Shere hills, his faithful brown mongrel, leashed, leading him into the valley.
It was two long unbearable weeks later that he encountered Bingel, a young boy, stout of body and heart and perpetually serious, strolling, eyes hooded, in these savannah fields. He stopped. He stopped too:
“I see you not, yet know I that you but a child still are: Your step, though slow, is untempered… your breathing, though measured, is free. Yes, though I see not, indeed I know that though you be young, at heart are you a man; for your step, though untempered, is slow, and your breathing, though free, is measured.”
The young wanderer looked at this old poet who said things he almost understood.
“And what do you want from me?” queried Bingel.
“Once I was a youth like you, wandering through these very same fields, pondering true over those very same questions that course right now through your heart! The answers I found, I did not understand; the answers I would have understood, I did not find. Thus had I to journey through life, learning through experiencing, finding not by thinking but by acting. And now that I, aged and blinded by life, stand before you today, it is with the ironic recognition that I have learnt nothing new in my old age which I did not already silently know in my youth, but now the knowledge I have, I understand, because the knowledge I would understand, I have. And yet the strange gap remains: I am still not complete.
“Above that, a certain peace eludes me still for I yet must ink into readable words the river of thoughts flowing in my soul; but how can a blind man write when he cannot see what he once could see when he could not write? Thus has destiny brought you to me today, my friend, to be my hand and to be my eyes, to write down on my behalf what I shall dictate to you, all I have to give, which is nought but that already in your own ancient heart, my son! This might sound strange to you now, but I am the answer you came here seeking today, for there are no accidents in life.”
Now the youth Bingel gazed long and hard, long at the old poet and hard at the ground, and then slowly began to speak:
“I fathom not one word which you have spoken, yes, not one. And since you say that all you know, already I know too, and yet I experience thus that I understand not what you say, then truly you have erred and I am not the one you seek! A blind man cannot see and so cannot see me! I cannot write down words which are alien to me and which will perhaps render me just as blind as you are, hobbling askance in lonely fields day and night, speaking double-sided words unconstruable to all but you.”
And so saying, the young philosopher walked off and walked away, the tremulous pleas of the old poet dying away unheeded behind his upright retreating form.
The blind old poet found no-one to write down his heart’s poems on his behalf and, just as he had lived with them, died with them veiled, untilled, still deep within his lonely heart.
The young boy grew up, still trying to understand those same strange, vague longings that took him into those lonely savannah fields in his youth. However, like the old poet, he found answers which were no answers, but only newer questions. And so, just like the oldman-poet, he experienced a very turbulent earthlife – one in which violence, bigotry and lack of understanding among the peoples grew from generation to generation. A life which, by its end, had made a poet of Bingel and rendered him blind too – full of the urge to write in words the poems weighing bright in his heart, but hoping for a willing hand to be his needed tool.
This morning he stood upon the very same peak on which, eighty years ago, the old poet had once also stood, and understood the very same strange and simple things the old poet had once grasped, for he had also become a blind old poet. For him too, the gaps remain and he is conscious of his incompletion.
Slowly he descended the Shere hills of the Jos plateau with his dog, his only companion; silvery tears glistened in his sightless eyes as he painfully remembered a friend he met, decades ago, on these very same rustic, primeval planes.
And so did I meet him, broken, upon his knees, blinded and in tears – the old poet. I stopped… And then made to continue, but he held me with his trembling old hand. And…
“What do you want from me!?” I demanded.
Gently Bingel began:
“Once I was a youth like you, wandering through these very same fields, pondering true over those very same questions that course right now through your heart! The answers I found, I did not understand…”